Altars and Relics

Altar stone
Altar stone that was kept within the altar of our church from approx 1975 to 2017

Some people may remember a time when altars had set into the table an ‘altar stone’.  The stone often had set into it the relic of a saint.

In early times, churches were often built over the tombs of martyrs, whose sacrifice reflected and honoured Christ’s own sacrifice.  St Peter’s Basilica and the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, for example, are both built over the tombs of the respective saints.

From this practice, the Church has had a long tradition of placing relics of saints beneath altars.  Many other saints, even if they are not martyrs, came to be interred in crypts below the sanctuaries of churches and cathedrals.  In other churches, a reliquary has been placed beneath the table of the altar.  While there was a time where relics were set into the table in an altar stone, the altar itself is a symbol of Christ, the living stone.  Relics, if they are to be kept at an altar, are to be placed beneath the table, which better reflects the traditional custom.

1401-altar-021.jpg
Architect’s impression of the new stone altar to be installed in our church as part of our Church Renewal Process

Our new altar will include a compartment beneath the table for the relics of a saint, which will be placed there by Bishop Vincent when the altar is dedicated on Sunday 17 December.

All Saints

Carmel Bulletin, 1 November 2015

All-SaintsToday we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints.  It is one of the feast days in our liturgical calendar that is observed instead of the usual Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Throughout the year, we celebrate the feast days of many saints.  This does not mean, however, that we worship saints.

The Church has also included in the annual cycle days devoted to the memory of the martyrs and the other saints. Raised up to perfection by the manifold grace of God, and already in possession of eternal salvation, they sing God’s perfect praise in heaven and offer prayers for us. By celebrating the passage of these saints from earth to heaven the Church proclaims the paschal mystery achieved in the saints who have suffered and been glorified with Christ; she proposes them to the faithful as examples drawing all to the Father through Christ, and through their merits she pleads for God’s favours.

Vatican II Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosantcum Concilium, article 104

By entering into the long tradition of honouring the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints, we ask them to intercede for us to God, who is always the object of our worship.  The saints give us an example of Christian faith and living.  They also offer us hope that we, like them, will experience the eternal glory of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in all its fullness.

Every time we celebrate Mass, it serves as a foretaste of the great and eternal banquet of the Lord.  The Eucharistic celebration unites us with the entire Church on earth, as well as the entire Church of God in heaven.  As we participate in the great Eucharistic prayer of thanksgiving today, let us once again glorify God “with one voice of praise… with the multitude of Saints and Angels” (Preface for All Saints).